I was recently asked to describe a Meyer Lemon. In the process of attempting to describe it I realised that describing flavours is actually quite difficult, and yet here I am about to have another go.
For anyone not familiar with Meyer Lemons, the first thing you need to know is that, technically, they are not lemons. Native to China, Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross between a lemon and another citrus – most likely an orange or mandarin. As you can see in the picture below (the Meyer lemons are on the left) they are a brighter yellowy orange colour with thinner skin than a ‘normal’ lemon. This thin skin is what I presume prevents them from widespread commercial growing. The only place I have ever seen the fruits for sale are farmers markets. I would be interested to know if anyone has seen them anywhere else.
I find that the fruit tend to be smaller than either Eureka or Lisbon lemons (the most commonly grown lemon varieties in Australia), although they often give just as much juice as they have a lot less pith. The trees are generally smaller than either of those lemon varieties – growing to about 2m. You can also buy them on dwarf rootstock as mine is.
In terms of flavour; to my palate they taste like a more fruity, less sour lemon which I guess is kind of what you’d expect given their parents. They are certainly more lemony than mandariny or orangey though, which I guess partially explains the inability of sources to agree on their antecedents.
Although they can be substituted for lemons in most dishes I do find that where you want the lemon to provide a really acidic note you are better off using a traditional lemon. I love using them in salad dressing, sweet dishes and a chicken, lemon & sage dish I cook quite regularly.
In terms of cultivation they seem to have much the same requirements as other citrus – well drained soil, a reasonable amount of water, sun and some protection from extreme cold, all of which a typical Melbourne (or anywhere temperate) garden can easily provide (periods of drought notwithstanding). They seem to be just as attractive to citrus gall wasps as my other citrus trees (if not more so) which is very irritating. They also seem particularly attractive to leaf miners.
The lemons in the picture are from my parents trees. Whilst both my lemon and Meyer lemon bore lemons this year they certainly don’t produce large amounts of lemons regularly….well not yet at least – they are only a couple of years old after all.